Instead of narrowing the gap in the NL East race, Philadelphia has dropped 7.5-games back of the division-leading Braves after bullpen blunders in back-to-back games cost the Phillies Game 1 and Game 2.
Nola enters with a 5.01 ERA in September
The Phillies are expected to lean on right-hander Aaron Nola on Sunday afternoon as they try to make an improbable run at the final Wild Card spot in the National League. The Phillies enter play on Saturday 6.5-games back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the last postseason slot in the NL with just nine games left on the regular season schedule. Even Nola hasn’t been immune to the Phillies’ struggles as of late. He comes into Sunday’s start having surrendered at least three earned runs in three of his last four outings, but broke that streak in his last start by delivering 5 ⅔ innings of two-run ball at home against the New York Mets. The 25-year-old enters the weekend with a 16-5 overall record to go along with a 2.44 ERA in 31 starts, while establishing himself as a legitimate Major League ace this season. He’s pitched into the sixth inning or later in 27 of those 31 starts and has not surrendered more than four runs in any of his outings.
Nola has made three starts versus the Braves in 2018, going 1-1 with a 2.95 ERA in those outings, but was 5-1 with a 1.96 ERA in his previous seven starts against Atlanta dating back to his rookie season in 2015. According to Baseball Savant, the current Braves’ roster is batting .253 in 156 plate appearances against the Phillies’ right-hander heading into Sunday’s start.
Sanchez tosses another quality start vs. Cardinals
The Braves will counter with veteran right-hander Anibal Sanchez, who has suffered some tough luck as of late despite pitching fairly well. He comes in with a 0-3 record over his last seven starts, but he’s allowing three runs or less in six of those outings and is coming into this matchup on the heels of back-to-back quality outings. The 34-year-old tossed six innings of two-run ball at home against the St. Louis Cardinals in his last start, but was rendered with a loss in an 8-1 Braves’ defeat. The veteran right-hander has experienced a career resurgence since returning to the NL East and comes into the weekend sporting a solid 6-6 overall record to go along with a 3.01 ERA in 23 appearances (22 starts) this season.
Sanchez has yet to face the Phillies as a member of the BRaves and has only made start against the Phillies dating back to 2015. He allowed six runs (three earned) on eight hits in six innings of work to take the loss in that game and is 4-9 with a career 4.91 ERA in 18 starts versus the Phillies coming into this game. The current Phillies roster is batting .274 with an expected slugging percentage of .541 in 134 plate appearances against Sanchez heading into Sunday’s showdown.
- Braves are 12-2 in their last 14 home games vs. a team with a losing road record
- Braves are 13-4 in their last 17 games vs. a starter with a WHIP less than 1.15.
- Phillies are 8-20 in their last 28 road games.
- Phillies are 6-20 in their last 26 games vs. a right-handed starter.
- Phillies are 0-5 in their last 5 road games vs. a right-handed starter.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Nola has had a ton of success against the Braves in his career and has pitched into the sixth inning or later in each of his three starts against them in 2018. However, he hasn’t faced the Braves since April 27 and they’ve been a different team since Ronald Acuna Jr. has gotten comfortable in the big leagues. Meanwhile, Sanchez has kept the Braves competitive in his starts this season, while limiting opposing hitters to a .216 batting average. The Phillies are in a bad spot right now, so I’m leaning towards the Braves at home in this NL East battle on Sunday afternoon.
Prediction: Pick: Atlanta Braves
Full-Game Total Pick
Both of these pitchers have been excellent for their respective teams this year. Nola has allowed three earned runs or less in 27 of his 31 starts this season, while Sanchez has accomplished the feat in 19 of his 23 outings this year. Neither pitcher has allowed more than four earned runs in any of their outings – a combined 54 starts. Take the under in this matchup at SunTrust Park on Sunday afternoon.
Full-Game Prop Bet
Not really known for his power, Nick Markakis is batting .303 with 14 home runs and 93 RBIs so far this season. He has homered in every month so far this season, but has yet to go deep during the month of September, despite batting .289 in 76 at-bats. He’s batting .240 with two home runs against Nola coming into this game and has seen him more than any other Braves’ hitter coming into this game. Take Markakis to hit the first home run of this game.
Prediction: Nick Markakis to hit the first home run
First Five Innings Side Pick
Sanchez has allowed three earned runs or less in each of his last six starts, while Nola comes into this game in a bit of a slump — if you can call it that. He’s allowed three earned runs or more in three of his last four starts and sports a 5.01 ERA in four September starts. Take the Braves at home on the five-inning line in this NL East battle in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon.
Prediction: Atlanta Braves
First Five Innings Total Bet
While Nolan has been stumbling as of late, he’s still the Phillies’ most consistent pitcher and neither of these hurlers has surrendered more than four earned runs in a start this season. After the Phillies’ bullpen blew back-to-back games to open the series, if you’re siding with Philadelphia, you should prefer the five-inning line in this spot. With that being said, I’m rolling with the hotter pitcher and better team in this spot. Take Atlanta on the five-inning line at home as they close out this series on Sunday.
First Five Innings Prop Prediction
Nola has been most vulnerable early in ball games in 2018. He sports an ERA under 3.00 in each inning between frames two and six, but sports a lackluster 4.65 ERA in the first inning of frames this season. Meanwhile, Sanchez owns a 2.45 first inning ERA and a 0.82 ERA in the second frame this season. Look for the Braves to win the first inning of this game at home on Sunday afternoon.
Prediction: First Innings Winner – Atlanta Braves